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'I didn't have to live up to what people expected me to be': Xenia Tan on transiting from hosting to acting

'I didn't have to live up to what people expected me to be': Xenia Tan on transiting from hosting to acting
AsiaOne recently spoke to local actress Xenia Tan regarding the transition from hosting to acting, as well as her experiences and thoughts on acting so far.
PHOTO: Instagram/Xenia Tan

You may have known her as a content creator and host, but nowadays, Xenia Tan is mostly an actress.

Recently, AsiaOne spoke to the 29-year-old regarding the transition, as well as her experiences and thoughts on acting so far.

"I was first trained as a personality host, so I just had to be myself, and I did that for four to five years," Xenia said.

"Then, I discovered new parts of myself, that I wasn't as extroverted as I thought I was. When I made the transition, I felt comforted and relieved that I didn't have to live up to what people expected me to be, to be always bubbly, for example. I am 29 now, and not the same person as I was at 23, 24.

"Even in hosting, I am learning to evolve with my new personality. The transition was a little rough, as people knew me as a neighbourhood girl - 'hyperlocal' and a bit 'blur'."

Even though Xenia had to overcome people's old perceptions of her and start from scratch, she admitted that she finds it smoother now than when she first started acting.

She has acted in multiple dramas, short films and movies, including Channel 5's long-form drama Sunny Side Up (2022), the new drama musical The Landlady Singer, and upcoming movies Wonderland (previously titled The Last Letters) and Stranger Eye.

She also received Best Lead Performance Award at the National Youth Film Awards 2023 for her performance in A Sorry Love Story (2023).


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'Reality hit once I came back'

In 2019, she did an advertisement and felt embarrassed that her performance was not up to her expectations, so she decided to upgrade herself, going to New York for a three-month acting course.

Ultimately, Xenia credited Covid-19 for pushing her into acting, the pandemic having struck shortly after she returned from her course in December 2019.

"I was excited in New York, but reality hit once I came back," she said. "I was supposed to shoot the travel series The $100 Nomad season two, but Covid-19 happened, so there were no hosting gigs.


"I lost my comfort zone and I had nothing else to lose, so I just went for auditions."

She is currently attending acting lessons by award-winning veteran actress Yeo Yann Yann, which helped her elevate her acting game, specifically in "sitting with her emotions more fully".

She elaborated: "Yann Yann said I overthink a lot, and asked me to find my intuitive self from when I was 23 and 24 - to be more direct in my performance and not think too much.

"Recently, I found myself tearing up in a lesson and felt shocked. She asked me why I couldn't stay in the moment and feel the emotions, and that it could be related to my childhood when I was not given enough space to emote."

Yann Yann also taught Xenia to "really listen to someone", because then she won't have time to overthink.

'If I had said no to Deep End, he might not have remembered me'

Xenia said that her participation in the movie Stranger Eye actually began with her failing to get a supporting role in director Yeo Siew Hua's drama Deep End. Co-director K. Rajagopal asked her to audition for a minor role in the same show instead.

"I only had one scene, which was to break down and act as if I had lost my mind... I didn't feel I could execute it well then, but I felt that the director saw something in me and I took on the challenge," she explained.

Subsequently, Xenia was surprised and grateful that Siew Hua remembered her and invited her to act in a heavier role in Stranger Eye.

She shared: "I don't know him well, but I still have goosebumps thinking about it… If I had said no to Deep End, then he might not have remembered me for Stranger Eye."

Xenia also appreciates Wonderland director Chai Yee Wei's kindness and light-heartedness, recalling a scene where she was nervous about having a long conversation in Hokkien with Mark Lee, who plays her father.

Xenia elaborated: "It was stressful and I had been practising for hours, and I was shocked when he came over before the scene started and told me, 'Don't worry, if you screw up, it's okay.'

"It's rare for a director to say that as there are many factors to consider when filming. I was super grateful and able to do my lines smoothly."

'Films can explore deeper and even taboo topics'

While hosting mostly serves to entertain, the most fulfilling part of acting for Xenia is "to be able to make people feel many things at one go".

She said: "Whether I am speaking or not, as long as I am in the moment, the audience is present with me and not demanding something specific. They are open to whatever the story is.

"So films can explore deeper and even taboo topics, and express feelings that can't be easily put into words."

Xenia also added that she would rarely reject a role unless it is a stereotype she prefers not to participate in, such as "a bimbotic influencer", as she feels there are many types of content creators.

She also wants to try out a LGBTQ+ character as she senses many potential stories in the community have not yet been told.

While she is comfortable acting, hosting and doing content creation, she acknowledged that some planning is required to strike a balance.

Xenia shared: "I want to maintain my skill set in hosting, and acting fulfils my soul, but I need content creation as an income… For example, after filming a movie for a long time, I will have to be more conscious about what I do in the next month.

"There's always a trade-off. If I have made my soul happy this month, I have to make my wallet happy next month."

Wonderland will have its world premiere at the 24th San Diego Asian Film Festival on Nov 8. It will also be shown at the Singapore International Film Festival on Dec 4. The release dates for the movie Stranger Eye and drama Deep End have not yet been confirmed. The Landlady Singer is showing on Channel 8 at 8pm from Oct 17, and the first four episodes can be accessed on's YouTube channel from Oct 20.

ALSO READ: 'I won't pretend I'm looking forward to motherhood': Rebecca Lim on life changes and possibility of becoming a 'tiger mum'

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